Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Cheeps and Chirps for Oct. 1, 2018

October 1, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 1, 2018

Chirp shots from the peanut gallery.

• Politics

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DC vs. Marvel at the movies

August 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 5, 2017

Author’s note: A few hours after I published this post, I added a note to my ersatz table indicating that two of the listings included ticket sales from the same Marvel movie. MEM

East Coast vs. West Coast, New York vs. Boston, Apple vs. Microsoft, DC vs. Marvel: Each one of these rivalries is famous and hard-fought. But over the past decade or so, perhaps none of these have been so one-sided as that between the two titans of comic books.

Although DC’s Superman and Batman are inarguably the best-known superheroes of all time, Marvel’s superhero teams — the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and, in recent years, the Guardians of the Galaxy — are by far more popular. Moreover, Marvel comics are generally thought to have more artistic merit and to be more socially relevant than DC products.

To add insult to injury, Marvel has been kicking DC’s heinie on the film front for a decade or more. This is despite the fact that DC’s flagship characters were phenomenally successful at the box office and helped establish the comic-book movie as a genre on the strength of productions such as Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and its 2008 and 2012 sequels.

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Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 4

July 7, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 7, 2017

As I documented exhaustively in my previous post, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rerun that I watched on the evening of the last Monday in June had a subject in common with the Star Trek: The Next Generation rerun that I caught on the following evening. And, as it happened, that Next Generation episode had something in common with the DS9 show that I saw on Wednesday night.

Wednesday’s outing was titled “A Simple Investigation”; it opens with two thugs murdering a visitor to Deep Space Nine for reasons that remain unclear until late in the episode. The victim was planning to rendezvous with a woman named Arissa, whom Odo, the station’s shape-shifting security chief, has a flirtatious chat with in the bar. After Arissa is caught attempting to break into confidential Deep Space Nine computer logs and then into a closed office, she reveals to Odo that she is fleeing from a powerful crime syndicate. He resolves to help her, and the two launch an unlikely romance. (Odo had never before been intimate with a solid woman.)

The reason I mention any of this is that “A Simple Investigation’s” main guest star was Dey Young, who played one of the chief colonists in “The Masterpiece Society.”

I won’t belabor the point — it’s just that that’s the kind of coincidence that I find absolutely delightful.

This brings me to the end of my television reminiscences from my dog-sitting stint, but I’ll be back soon with a few notes about the actual sitting-on-dogs part of the dog-sitting.

(Note: I’m just kidding about that sitting-on-dogs thing.)

To be continued

Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 3

July 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 5, 2017

Author’s note: The following post contains spoilers for the fifth-season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Dr. Bashir, I Presume,” which originally aired in February 1997. MEM

I mentioned in my previous post that, quite by chance, I picked up my viewing of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Masterpiece Society” right around the point where this YouTube clip that I’d happened to watch recently came to an end. That wasn’t the only coincidence in play, however. As it happens, this episode had some commonalities with the ST:DS9 episode that I’d seen the evening before.

As I mentioned, in Star Trek, genetic engineering has “been banned by most members of polite galactic society for centuries.” The reasons for this were established in “Space Seed,” the 1967 original series episode that introduced the villainous Khan.

In that show, Kirk and company run across a centuries-old sleeper ship containing Khan and his fellow genetically engineered Earthlings; this group of power-hungry “supermen” were exiled to deep space after winding up on the losing end of the Eugenics Wars. Khan and his associates are revived and brought on board the Enterprise, but as so often happens in these types of stories, their craving for power reasserts itself.

In Deep Space Nine’s “Dr. Bashir, I Presume,” it’s revealed that the chief medical officer of the series’ far-flung Federation outpost was subjected to secret and illegal genetic modification by his parents. The matter is referred to a Starfleet admiral, who tells the Bashirs:

Two hundred* years ago, we tried to improve the species through DNA resequencing. And what did we get for our troubles? The Eugenics Wars. For every Julian Bashir that can be created, there’s a Khan Singh waiting in the wings — a superhuman whose ambition and thirst for power have been enhanced along with his intellect. The law against genetic engineering provided a firewall against such men. And it’s my job to keep that firewall intact.

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Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 2

June 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 29, 2017

Late Tuesday afternoon, I showered, took the dog outside and set out for Sterling, Va., which is a 20 or 25-minute drive from where I’m staying. I was going to — well, let’s call it Massive Marvin’s, a dining establishment that a pair of Internet websites assured me had six pinball machines.

I haven’t yet blogged about pinball, but in brief: I started playing casually sometime last year at the instigation of my friend D—, who’d picked up a pinball jones in 2015 or so; I began developing a true pinball obsession myself about two months ago, which has evolved to the point that I played pinball at five different Triangle venues in the four days leading up to my departure for Virginia.

My phone’s navigation program led me to a nondescript shopping center in a part of Northern Virginia that looked remarkably like every other shopping center that was developed in Northern Virginia in the 1990s. It contained a supermarket, a tool store, a library, an automotive parts store, a few restaurants… The place I was looking for was right by the entrance I’d used, so I found it without too much effort.

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Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 1

June 28, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 28, 2017

This week, I’m dog-sitting for the Os, friends of mine who live in Northern Virginia. Their home is close to the Beltway — Interstate 495, which rings our nation’s capital — and yet lies more than an hour from the District of Columbia.

I arrived on Thursday night last week, the evening before O pére et mére were to depart for a family reunion in New England. After dinner, I asked to be shown how the dishwasher, laundry machines and TV worked.

After the entertainment system demonstration, Mr. O and I watched a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation on this cable channel, which I’d never before heard of. (The cable channel, that is, not the show.) We happened to tune a few minutes after 9 p.m., and almost instantly I exclaimed, “Is that Matt Frewer?!”

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Disappointed and thrilled: Memories from 1979’s premiere ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’

April 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 29, 2017

The original Star Trek series debuted on Sept. 8, 1966, some five years after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. On July 20, 1969, about six weeks after NBC aired the show’s final episode, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first men to set foot on the moon. It would be more than 10 years before any further live-action Trek appeared, in the form of 1979’s beautiful but ponderous Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The show did have some new on-screen life over this fallow decade. Twenty-two episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series featuring the original cast were broadcast over a 13-month period spanning September 1973 through September 1974.

But the franchise mainly flourished in other forms during the interregnum: Through print and reruns. A variety of comic books generally chronicled new adventures that hadn’t been produced for television, while a passel of prose books mixed adaptations of TV episodes with original stories. Reruns — aired in New York City and beyond by WPIX for years and years beginning shortly after Star Trek was canceled by NBC — presented the show more or less as it had been originally produced. (The “less” part came from two things — wear and tear on the film prints, which WPIX replaced with tapes in the 1980s, and editing to accommodate more commercials and other promotions.)

Information in 1979 wasn’t as easy to obtain as it is now, when lifetimes’ worth of video, audio and other content can be accessed nearly anywhere with a lap- or palmtop device. Still, newspapers, television and magazines — I particularly remember drooling over issues of Starlog — did an ample job of spreading the word about upcoming movies. And believe you me, I was very excited for the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979.

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The 2016 ‘Star Trek’ movie urged viewers to tolerate and embrace differences even as some Americans sought safety in homogeneity

April 28, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 28, 2017

Author’s note: I am once again on a bit of a Star Trek kick. Having just written, respectively, about the most recent and the first Trek movies, I now intend to discuss the cultural and political implications of the latest Star Trek and Star Wars features (that’s the purpose of this post). Be on the lookout for a vignette about going to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the movie theater, after which I’ll return to more varied subjects. MEM

The Star Wars franchise is a largely apolitical one. Creator George Lucas conceived of his space saga in largely black-and-white terms. The color lines were literal in some cases, as when the towering evil black-clad Sith Lord, Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), menaced the elfin, virtuous white-clad rebel, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in 1977’s Star Wars (retroactively retitled Star Wars: A New Hope).

Lucas later introduced some more nuance and ambiguity, with moody protagonist Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) donning dark-colored apparel for the latter half of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and most of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. And to his credit, Lucas attempted to explore what happens when peaceful societies are overtaken by complacency, greed and corruption in his prequel trilogy.

But even in the prequel trilogy, Lucas was pretty light on specificity; other than “Don’t vote to establish a standing army” or “Don’t entrust leadership of your enfeebled and embattled republic to a creepy politician who is also secretly a master manipulator and skilled warrior with awesome telekinetic powers who can shoot death lightning from his fingertips,” he offers no solid prescriptions for preserving peace and democracy. This is, perhaps, no surprise: The franchise is called Star Wars, after all, not Star Governance.

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The flawed but beautiful ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ successfully launched a pioneering TV show onto the silver screen

April 25, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 25, 2017

A strong case can be made that 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the most ambitious movie in the Trek franchise, as well as the one that holds truest to the science fiction tropes of peaceful exploration that were famously embodied by Gene Roddenberry’s original television series. And an equally strong case can be made that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is among the least watchable of all the Trek films, both on the franchise’s own terms as well as those of cinema in general.

(Reader beware: Mild spoilers ensure.)

Before I dive into either argument, a plot summary: An presmense and incredibly powerful energy field of unknown origin is flying toward Earth after having erased three Klingon battle cruisers without breaking sweat. Strangely, although Starfleet is headquartered on Earth, the organization has only one ship capable of intercepting this vast cloud, which we eventually learn calls itself V’ger. That vessel, naturally, is one U.S.S. Enterprise. She is fresh off a two and a half year long refit without having undergone a shakedown cruise, she’s assigned to an untested captain, and her crew is young and largely untried.

Enter one Admiral James Tiberius Kirk (the one and only William Shatner), who has (it is strongly implied) spent the interim period serving as chief of Starfleet operations. He persuades his boss (the unseen Admiral Nogura) to restore Enterprise to his command, usurping the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Capt. Willard Decker (Stephen Collins). As the crew struggles to prepare the starship for its upcoming encounter, and as Kirk comes to grips with the challenges of the situation, the starship finds itself facing a powerful entity that regards humanity as an infestation. Life on Earth could be exterminated unless Kirk and his top officers — Decker, a cranky Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and an incredibly remote Spock (Leonard Nimoy) — find a way to work together and satisfy V’ger’s desire to unite with God.

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Stephen Goldin constructs an amiable but rather forgettable ‘Trek to Madworld’ in his 1979 original ‘Star Trek’ novel

December 3, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 3, 2016

I initially couldn’t remember how I acquired Bantam’s February 1998 reissue of Trek to Madworld, a 1979 Star Trek novel by Stephen Goldin. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the book must have been mailed to me gratis by the publisher thanks to my stint as books columnist for the short-lived periodical Sci-Fi Invasion!

I certainly don’t remember reading the book, which is pleasantly mediocre, and which was one of a handful of original Star Trek novels that helped maintain the franchise’s popularity between the cancellation of Gene Roddenberry’s pioneering TV series in 1969 and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.

How did I obtain a copy of Trek to Madworld? Well, the story isn’t very interesting. Here it is:

I visited Ye Olde Family Homestead for Thanksgiving. A day or two before I was to return to North Carolina, I was sitting on the couch in the living room. There’s a free-standing bookcase on the south wall; the north wall is completely lined by built-in bookshelves. I happened to look south (that is, to my right) and for some reason noticed three Star Trek books on a lower shelf. I decided that I should read one of them; as to which got chosen, well, need I say any more?

The book opens as the U.S.S. Enterprise embarks on a routine mission: Ferrying legendary explorer Kostas Spyroukis and his daughter, Metika Spyroukis, back home to Epsilon Delta 4 from the conference world of Babel, where they had unsuccessfully petitioned the Council to admit their colony as a full member of the United Federation of Planets.

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Cheeps and Chirps for Aug. 16, 2016

August 16, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 16, 2016

There will be Twitter!

• Comedy!

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John Scalzi’s ‘Redshirts’ explores the downside of life as a supernumerary aboard a TV spacecraft

July 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 24, 2015

John Scalzi’s 2012 novel, Redshirts, is a wonderful comic exploration of what life might be like for the crew of a spaceship featured in a campy television series.

Scalzi’s protagonist is Ensign Andrew Dahl, a 25th-century xenobiologist who has just been assigned to the Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union. He’s one of five new junior crew members who quickly become aware that their new starship is, well, a little unusual.

For instance, take Dahl’s first away mission, to a space station overrun by deadly robots:

Dahl screamed McGregor’s name, stood and unholstered his pulse gun, and fired into the center of the pulpy red haze where he knew the killer machine to be. The pulse beam glanced harmlessly off the machine’s surface. Hester yelled and pushed Dahl down the corridor, away from the machine, which was already resetting its harpoon. They turned a corner and raced away into another corridor, which led to the mess hall. They burst through the doors and closed them behind them.

“These doors aren’t going to keep that thing out,” Hester said breathlessly.

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Looking again at the profits of ‘Star Trek’ movies

April 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 8, 2015

On Tuesday, in my discussion of Star Trek: First Contact, I mentioned a number of parallels between that film and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Among other things, I wrote this:

These films are also the most popular and successful ones starring their respective casts. The Voyage Home, a 1986 release, grossed nearly $110 million. First Contact, which came out almost exactly 10 years later, grossed $92 million. The only Trek films that made more money were the J.J. Abrams–helmed reboots from 2009 and 2012, which populated the roles of Kirk, Spock and company with a brand-new cast.

I have a confession to make: These numbers are…fishy. Specifically, the numbers cited in yesterday’s blog post weren’t adjusted for inflation. (They came from Box Office Mojo, by the way.)

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Despite its stellar reputation, I recommend that most viewers avoid ‘Star Trek: First Contact’

April 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 7, 2015

Star Trek: First Contact was the eighth movie in the Trek franchise. It was also the second (following 1994’s Star Trek Generations) of four movies to feature the Next Generation cast.

First Contact has a number of things in common with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. These films marked the directorial debuts of, respectively, Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) and the late Leonard Nimoy (Spock), the first officers of TNG’s 24th-century Enterprise and the original series’s 23rd-century U.S.S. Enterprise. Both movies involve serious threats to planet Earth, which can only be resolved with journeys through time to Earth as it was roughly 300 years prior to the TV series’ main timelines. And both stories have generous doses of comedy, which are often due to the space-traveler-out-of-time aspect of the narratives.

These films are also the most popular and successful ones starring their respective casts. The Voyage Home, a 1986 release, grossed nearly $110 million. First Contact, which came out almost exactly 10 years later, grossed $92 million. The only Trek films that made more money were the J.J. Abrams–helmed reboots from 2009 and 2012, which populated the roles of Kirk, Spock and company with a brand-new cast.

I like The Voyage Home quite a lot, but I’ve never really been a fan of First Contact. In rewatching it recently, my opinion of the movie rose — but only slightly.

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Dream diary: Vampires and skyscrapers and gliders, oh my

March 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 24, 2015

Last week, while I was sleeping, I dreamed up a horror movie. It involved vampires.

The movie had a prologue set in World War II that showed the origin of the vampires. It apparently also showed their containment — at least, for the next several decades… (Yes, much of my recollection of this dream is vague. So sue me.)

Then the movie switched to the present day. Most of the rest of the story took place in a large modern skyscraper. I dreamed about the vampire menace being unleashed inside the building and the numbers of the contaminated quickly growing. Vampires preyed upon unsuspecting regular people and converted them into the undead. As they threatened to outnumber people, the creatures began attacking openly.

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These are a few of my favorite books

March 15, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 16, 2015

Author’s note: Recently, a young acquaintance who was working on a school project asked me what my favorite book was. I sent this e-mail and then realized, Hey, this would make a great blog post. I’ve made a few relatively minor changes to the text, and — well, here it is. Enjoy! MEM 

“What’s your favorite book?” is a great question to ask someone! It’s hard for me to answer, however, because I love so many different books.

I am extremely fond of Tales of Pirx the Pilot, an anthology about a future astronaut written by the late Polish author Stanislaw Lem. (This book was published in Poland in 1968; it was translated into English and published in two parts. I refer here to the first volume, 1979’s Tales of Pirx the Pilot; the second volume, More Tales of Pirx the Pilot, appeared in 1982 and is also excellent.)

Pirx’s adventures are often kind of comical: In the opening story, a very persistent fly gets caught in Pirx’s capsule on his first solo rocket flight. Sometimes, they’re dull — Pirx’s first duty assignment in outer space is essentially watching two scientists who don’t really need any help at a very quiet observatory on the far side of the moon.

The protagonist is a bit bumbling and ordinary, but at the same time he is hard-working, stubborn and kind of charming in a quaint way. Also, Pirx manages to escape some genuinely dangerous situations. We can’t all be Captain Kirk from Star Trek (my favorite TV show when I was a kid), but I like to think that there’s a little bit of Pirx in everyone.

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‘Star Trek Generations’ got the 24th-century Enterprise crew off to an uneven start in the movie theaters

March 11, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 11, 2015

Star Trek Generations, the seventh feature film in that science fiction franchise, opened in theaters in November 1994, a few months after the end of the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The movie, which was written by TNG producers Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, was explicitly intended to springboard the newer cast into a cinematic series.

Generations did so in part by transporting a character from the original show and movie series into a 24th-century adventure. The Next Generation had largely avoided this kind of crossover, at least partly out of deference to the wishes of Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, who died in 1991 at age 70.

(Dear readers: There be spoilers ahead. I mean, they’re for a 21-year-old movie, but still, you’ve been warned!)

The movie starts in the 23rd century as Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and two of his former crewmen participate in the maiden voyage of the fourth starship Enterprise. This time around, Kirk isn’t in charge — he’s just a guest aboard the Excelsior-class vessel, registration number NCC-1701-B. The crew includes a young ensign named Demora Sulu (Jacqueline Kim), the daughter of Kirk’s old helmsman. Kirk wonders aloud how Sulu was able to start a family. “If something’s important, you make the time,” Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) reproachfully tells his former commanding officer.

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A brief history of ‘Star Trek’

March 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 10, 2015

Author’s note: I know the blog has been Star Trek–heavy lately, thanks to all the musings prompted by the recent death of actor Leonard Nimoy. As it happens, I recently acquired DVDs of the four movies starring the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast, and I watched one of them the other night. But before I wrote about the film proper, I wanted to put it in the context of the Star Trek franchise.

Also, I recently read two books: Sweet Tooth, a spy novel by Ian McEwan, and The Lecturer’s Tale, an academic satire by James Hynes. Please bear with me… I’ll get back to non-Trek programming soon, I promise! MEM

Creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned the television show now known as Star Trek: The Original Series as being a “Wagon Train to the stars.” Despite its status now as a pop-culture icon, the program — which chronicled the 23rd-century adventures of Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and the crew of the starship Enterprise — got off to a rocky start. In 1968, two years after its debut, NBC executives decided to commission a third season only after fans mounted a letter-writing campaign. But the show was canceled for good in 1969.

The franchise limped along over the next decade. A cartoon version featuring most of the original cast, which is now called Star Trek: The Animated Series, was produced for the 1973-74 TV season.

But Trek survived mainly in the form of reruns; this was how (and when) I first came to know the show as a young child. Trek fans were also able to enjoy print adaptations of the TV episodes, original stories told in novel and comic-book form, and a variety of franchise-themed toys and clothing. After the cartoon show was scuttled, however, there were no new television or cinematic adventures to be seen.

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After Genesis: More notes on the evolution of ‘Star Trek’ and Spock following ‘The Wrath of Khan’

March 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 9, 2015

The recent death of actor Leonard Nimoy prompted me to watch and think about the ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanThat 1982 film, which was written by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards and directed by Nicholas Meyer, is probably the high point of the Star Trek franchise.

(Note: As with my previous post, this blog entry contains mild spoilers. Of course, it’s for a 33-year-old movie, but anyway, you’ve been warned: There be spoilers ahead.)

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Farewell to Spock: Notes on the poignant denouement of ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’

March 6, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 6, 2015

After hearing that actor Leonard Nimoy, famous for portraying Mr. Spock from Star Trek, had died last week at age 83, I did the same thing as many thousands of others, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of others: I watched this clip from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

If you’ve never seen that movie, and if you care nothing for the Star Trek franchise, then move on; this blog post will be of no interest to you. If you like Star Trek but haven’t seen The Wrath of Khan, then by all means bookmark this page and put off reading the rest of this blog entry until you’ve watched the entire film.

(Yes, friends: There be spoilers ahead.)

If you’ve seen the movie, then you know the grim climactic details that I avoided spelling out in my post about the afternoon I went to watch Star Trek II in the movie theaters.

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Farewell to Spock: On seeing, and suffering through, ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’

March 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 4, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, died Friday morning. That sad occasion prompted me to mull the first time I watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which many (including me) consider to be the best of all the Star Trek films.

The Star Trek universe is largely a positive place, especially as depicted in the original TV series, which aired from 1966 through 1969. Yes, conflict exists, but in general, Star Trek was a much more family-friendly milieu than that depicted in landmark 1970s science-fiction entertainment such as AlienOutlandCapricorn OneSaturn 3 or even Star Wars. (Granted, George Lucas’s universe is pretty PG-friendly. But there’s very little in early Star Trek that approaches the seediness that the first Star Wars film displayed in the scenes at the Mos Eisley cantina and the Death Star trash compactor.)

Star Trek II takes a very different approach from earlier Trek. In many ways, the film — written by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards and directed by Nicholas Meyer — is a rehearsal of mortality. In the opening scene, the Enterprise is brutally attacked by Klingons while on a rescue mission; Spock, chief communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), helmsman Sulu (George Takei) and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are killed before the ship’s master, a fresh-faced female Vulcan named Saavik (Kirstie Alley) gives the order to abandon ship.

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Like father, like son? Identity is inextricably tied to parentage in Nick Harkaway’s ‘Angelmaker’

December 18, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 18, 2014

Absent parents loom large in the fictional realm. A key component of the original Star Wars trilogy is Luke Skywalker’s gradual discovery of the particulars of his parentage (especially the villainy of his father, the genocidal Darth Vader) and Luke’s struggle to develop his supernatural powers without being consumed by his own dark, angry impulses. The rebellious nature of the alternative timeline’s James Tiberius Kirk is shaped in large part by the absence of his father, George, whom director J.J. Abrams killed off in the opening sequence of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Likewise, the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man makes the research and relationships of Richard Parker, father of the orphaned web-slinging Peter Parker, a key plot point in both of the series’s first two outings.

I’d wager that matters of parentage are even more prominent in British fiction. After all, the United Kingdom has been ruled for centuries by a hereditary monarchy, with power passing (at least in theory) from one generation of royalty to the next.

A major storyline in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy involves Aragorn assuming the position of king of Gondor that, according to genetics and custom, is rightfully his. My recollection of the books is hazy, but in Peter Jackson’s wonderful movie adaptation, when the audience initially encounters this character, he goes by the name of Strider and appears to be a well-trained woodsman accustomed to operating on his own — hardly the résumé of the standard fantasy prince.

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Up in the air: J.J. Abrams juggles balls aplenty in a dynamic, overstuffed ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

August 28, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 28, 2014

Star Trek Into Darkness, director J.J. Abrams’s second entry in the rebooted Star Trek series, is packed to the gills with characters, plot threads and action. Unfortunately, the 2013 film is guilty of trying to do a bit too much.

Into Darkness is fun, no doubt. It recapitulates one of the most popular narratives in the Star Trek oeuvre: The story of Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered warlord who was frozen in a cryogenic tube and exiled from Earth after the bloody Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century. Gene Roddenberry’s pioneering 1966 television show featured Khan as the villain of the week in “Space Seed,” a first-season Star Trek episode; 16 years later, the character formed the dark heart of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which many still consider to be the best of the franchise’s dozen movies.

Abrams’s movie combines elements of both outings while adding plenty of new twists. Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch, charismatic but far paler than any man playing a character named Khan should be) and his frozen coterie of superhumans are discovered by a Starfleet commander other than the Enterprise’s James T. Kirk, and Khan’s 23rd-century machinations take quite a bit of unraveling as our heroes seek to learn just who he is and what he’s about. (As superfans already know, the movie is chockablock with dangerous newfangled torpedoes, and there are a pair of characters named Marcus, but there are no signs of the U.S.S. Reliant or the planet-shattering Genesis project.)

The film begins with an action sequence on the planet Nibiru, where Kirk (Chris Pine) breaks all the rules to preserve a primitive civilization and the life of his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto). The opening act sets up several character arcs by displaying Kirk’s immaturity and Spock’s refusal to engage with the emotional needs of his friend (Kirk) and lover (communications officer Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana).

A few minutes later, a Starfleet facility in London is destroyed and a gunship kills several officers at fleet headquarters in San Francisco. This prompts a furious Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to dispatch Kirk to the Klingon home world, Qo’noS (pronounced Kronos), with orders to kill the fugitive responsible for both attacks. But it turns out that the fugitive is not who he seems, and neither are some of the other characters who are either crewing or focusing their attention on the Enterprise.

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January 17, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken MEMwrites.wordpress.com Jan. 17,
2014 Let me start off with this: Right from the start, I’ve had
mixed feelings about the rebooted Star
Trek
enterprise. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the
pun.) One reason for this, of course, involves the cast: William
Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, the late DeForest Kelley, George
Takei, Nichelle Nichols and all the rest of the cast of the
original Star Trek portrayed their
characters throughout three TV seasons and six feature films. The
thought of seeing different people play Captain James T. Kirk,
Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Hikaru Sulu, Nyota Uhura and the
others is just — well, it’s
frankly weird. I first became aware of
the original Star Trek when I was a
child, and I still vividly remember the excitement that surrounded
the release of the first several Star
Trek
movies. It’s a stretch to say I grew up with
these characters, whose adventures I also followed throughout a
number of original novels — but not a huge one. When
producer-director J.J. Abrams assembled his cast for the 2009
reboot, titled simply Star Trek, he came
up with an interesting group. As Kirk, Chris Pine has something of
the charisma of the young Shatner. Zachary Quinto seems to be a
fine actor, but I frequently think that he has the wrong voice (too
high-pitched) and nose (not angular enough) for Spock. Karl Urban
(a New Zealander,
natch) and Zoe Saldana capture some of the essence of McCoy and
Uhura, respectively, even though I find Urban’s gruff intonation
cartoonish and grating.

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